17 October 2006

First Practice With the Freeze

The six sticky notes pasted to my monitor, the Outlook alert, Jess (our sharecare nanny), and Al all reminded me to go to hockey practice last night; if they hadn't, I probably would have missed it again. Truly, Monday evenings are chaotic around here, and it's easy to forget which way is up when everyone comes crashing through the door at 6pm and I'm not yet done fixing a bug. At the last minute Al and The Beaner decided to come with me, and when The Beaner realized he was invited, he said, "mommy daddy play hockey!" I was so surprised; I don't think I've ever heard him say that before. I replied, "well, mommy's going to play hockey." He just kept repeating "mommy daddy play hockey!" until about an hour later, when he and Al were sitting in the stands eating dinner while I practiced. At that point he switched to "mommy play hockey! daddy eat pizza!"

I realized as I was getting dressed that I last played hockey in June. Wow, long time. Would I remember what the hell I was doing? Would I fall down as soon as I got on the ice? (Luckily I double-checked for skate guards before leaving the locker room, as I'd left one on.) It turned out that I did remember (mostly) what I was doing, and that I could get around OK. My shot seems weaker, despite all the bicep-boosting Boopster carrying, and I found I got winded easily, but the biggest problem I had was with the drills, which are still quite unfamiliar to me.

We ended up doing that two-man-weave passing drill that Lisa showed us, and I still couldn't get it right. I usually pass and then forget to cross, or I try to pass and cross at the same time, or both. I got paired with a girl who seemed incredibly exasperated with my ineptitude, which didn't help. There's nothing like being written off as an idiot at your first practice to build your confidence. I also fell once during the skate to the redline, stop, skate to the blueline, stop, skate to the...[you get the idea] drill, when I couldn't decide which side I wanted to stop on until it was too late. I'm actually lucky I didn't break my ankle on that one. (Afterwards Bill told me we always stop facing the clock. He might have said it in the original instructions; his accent is a bit hard to parse in the echo of an empty ice arena, so I missed a lot of what he said.)

I had much better luck with the forechecking drill (which is really just like a game situation, and I love forechecking anyway) and the two-on-one drill that was designed to help a defensive player (not necessarily the D) read the play in order to stop a rush. In both drills I got to skate flat out, carry the puck, pass, and shoot, and I learned a lot about what I need to work on most: namely, Hockey Head. I use this term to describe what many coaches would call "heads-up hockey", where you're skating with your head up, looking for passing targets, reading the play, and making quick decisions. It turns out that I'm not very good at this. I'm not so bad physically, but my decisionmaking is, in my opinion, poor. I don't always look before I pass. I pass when I should skate and shoot, and I skate when I really should pass. I'll definitely go after a player and forecheck/backcheck like a fiend if I see signs of weakness, but I take too long to read those signs and then act on them. I shouldn't be starting from a dead standstill when I decide to attack.

So I realize that everything I just said sounds quite negative, but really, the practice was not bad for my first time on the ice in 4 months. Most of the women I met seemed friendly and nice, and I can already tell that having coached practices is going to help my game. It'll also be nice to practice and play regularly. Oh, and I seemed to be about middle-of-the-pack skillwise, so this is the right level for me. Our first game is this Saturday (it turns out there's also one on Sunday that I didn't know about and will therefore miss, but since the large roster will necessitate some of us sitting out games anyway, it's not a big deal).

Finally, on an unrelated note, Al has been unable to find a team to play on this season. If your Philadelphia/South Jersey-area team needs a C-level guy who can play D or Forward, let me know!

Posted by Lori at 02:56 PM | Link to This Entry

25 October 2006

Two Points

So much hockey has happened since I last wrote... and it's only been a week! Our first game was on Saturday, and I think I mentioned that I found out at my first practice that there was also a game on Sunday. I also found out at my first practice about the 20-21 person roster, and that it'd mean having to sit out some games if we wanted to keep the number of lines/people on the bench reasonable. Al and I had already made plans to go apple picking on Sunday, so I said I'd be there on Saturday but not Sunday.

On Wednesday or Thursday, I got an e-mail from the team captain saying that the plan for the weekend was to have the "old" girls play on Saturday, and for the new to watch and see how it's done (positioning, etc.). On Sunday, the new girls would be on the ice, supplemented with as many old girls as needed to fill out the lines. Although in principle this sounded like a fine idea, I couldn't help but be mad. Saturday was the game I COULD come to; Sunday was the game I'd miss. I talked to Al about it after work on Friday, and he said it'd be OK if I wanted to try to play on Sunday—we'd probably get back from apple picking early enough, and he was willing to watch The Beaner.

On Saturday morning I woke up grumpy as hell and couldn't shake the bad mood. I wasn't sure if it was the fact that I'd been letting a bit of sugar creep back into my diet, that I hadn't been getting enough sleep... or that I was just pissed off that I wasn't going to get to play hockey. I ended up packing my hockey bag and putting my stick in the car anyway, just in case there was room for me after all, and at 1:45 Al, The Beaner, and I drove to the rink. I do believe I pouted the whole way. When we got there I went to the locker room to verify with the captain that she really didn't want the new girls to dress (I mean, if the point is to keep the bench from being too crowded, why would we dress?), and after a funny/exasperating exchange and a quick head count, I was told to go get my equipment. It turned out that with me, we only had 13—three lines of forwards and two of D.

I was put on a line with another new girl—Meghan—who'd apparently come ready to play, regardless of any stinkin' e-mail, and Donna, who I think usually plays Wing but who Centered our line. Meghan didn't care which side she played on, so I opted for Left, my usual spot. When I got on the ice for my first shift (we were the third line), I suddenly realized why Lee, my former linemate from the summer Galaxy team last year, had suggested I play on a women's team. I remember being offended at the suggestion—I mean hey, women are just as tough as men, and most of the women I've played with have been just as good as the men on the team, if not better—but Lee had said he thought it would help me build confidence. I think he's right. It's not that I can't play with guys; it's that I tend to go into "oh no, it's ok, YOU take the puck" mode when I play with guys. I'd already known how much it undermined my confidence to have no one pass to me; to feel everyone holding their breath, waiting for me to fuck up; to hear the exaggerated sighs of exasperation when I lost the puck. What I hadn't really realized how much I was deferring to them, how I poured all my aggressiveness into backchecking and forechecking, but almost none into offense. I *should* have realized it; it's the reason I felt like I was on fire in Vancouver, and why I went back to being lukewarm when I returned to the Admirals.

This is not to say that the team we were playing on Saturday was weak; on the contrary, I thought we were pretty evenly matched. It's just that I didn't defer to any other skater, no matter how good she was. Plus, our line ended up working really well together; there's something about cycling and passing well and being consistently first to the puck that makes a line click—and therefore play even better. Early on, Donna scored a goal on a pass from Meghan while I took out the D in the slot, and we had tons of other chances later in the game as well. I had like five breakaways. Yeah, let's pause here and consider that. I either intercepted a bad pass, picked up a loose puck, or just plain took the puck off another girl's stick and skated hard toward the net with it at least five times in the game. I didn't score any goals, but BOY did it help my confidence. (So Lee: you were right.) I talked about these breakaways with Al after the game (he and The Beaner saw only part of the game; a two year old's attention span is not lengthy, unless Elmo is involved), and I said I thought the reason I couldn't score is that I tended to stay on the left side as I skated in. If a defender caught up to me, all she had to do was keep me there—and all the goalie had to do was stand in the corner of the net on that side—to keep me from scoring. I decided that I should go up the middle more and give myself more options.

So anyway, after long stretches where the game was tied at 1-1 and then 2-2, our team ended up scoring two more goals, and we won 4-2. I left feeling exhilirated, my bad mood banished. All afternoon Al and I talked about what had worked, which plays I'd blown (e.g., stick-checking my opponent when the puck came to me off the faceoff in the defensive zone, rather than just going for the puck), the small moments I was really proud of (e.g., line changes, especially the one where I dumped the puck hard into the far corner after crossing the redline; I was skating hard, and I don't think my opponents had any idea I'd planned to dump and change), what I planned to try next time. We also agreed that having a coach (Bill) on the bench to draw diagrams of what we should be doing in different situations between periods was absolute gold. I think it made Al happy to see me so excited, and it's probably why he didn't object when I asked to play again on Sunday even though I'd played on Saturday after all.

Sunday's game was at Iceworks in Aston, PA (very close to where we went apple picking, atually, though we went home in between so Al and The Beaner could take naps) against the Flames. Our captain said that the Flames had several squads, and she wasn't sure which one we'd be playing against—it might be their C team, their D team, their developmental team, or a combination. I think it turned out to be their developmental team, as they weren't nearly as fast, as confident, or as skilled as the team we played on Saturday. They also seemed pretty young, though as an old geezer who's about to turn 38, I'm not that great at distinguishing between 15 and 25. (When I remarked to Meghan that the other team seemed much younger than us, she shrugged and looked puzzled. That's when I said, "wait, how old are you?" The answer was 23. So there you go—not all of us are pushing 40.)

Meghan and I formed a wing pair again, this time on the second line and with Shelly (who wasn't there on Saturday) as our Center. I thought we worked just as well, if not better, as a line than we had on Saturday. It didn't hurt that we were almost never in our defensive zone, and that we could knock our opponents off the puck so easily. (At one point I reminded myself of Leslie, my teammate from the Spitfire, who often manages to foul up a breakout by sweeping her stick behind her with one hand while clogging up the lane with her body. I must've done that at least 10 times in this game.) Oh, but before I really got started, I got a penalty. I almost forgot about that, since it happened about 20 seconds into my first shift. An opponent and I both went into the corner for the puck, and she tripped over my leg and fell on my stick. She was still trying to get the puck up to a teammate, so I continued to try to dig it out, too, despite the fact that she was draped across my stick. When the puck finally came out, I turned and saw the ref with his arm up, and a second later he blew the whistle. "10 teal, [something inaudible]!" It wasn't too surprising; I figured I'd been called for tripping. As the ref escorted me to the box, however, he said, "you can't do that with your stick anymore." I said, "did you say 'do that with your stick'?" and then realized that we'd been warned not to talk to the refs per new USA Hockey rules. "10 teal, hooking," he told the scorekeeper, and then skated to our bench to tell Jill and Billy that we weren't allowed to bring a player down with our sticks. Or something; I'm dying to know whether I was called for bringing the girl down with a hook (which I didn't do), or for hooking her while she was down and we were fighting for the puck (which I did).

I think it was my second shift where I got a breakaway, and I thought to myself as I crossed the blueline, "skate to the middle! Don't stay on the outside!" I looked up and saw two defenders near the insides of the faceoff circles, but they seemed to be standing still (it's possible they were moving, and only *looked* like they were standing still; I can't say for sure). I cut hard right as I neared the one closest to me, skated between them, brought the puck to my backhad, and shot. I don't actually remember how I got to my backhand, but I know I did because there's no way I couldn't have shot from my forehad at that angle. Plus, it's a shot I practice all the time during skate-and-shoots and warmups, so I suspect I did it without thinking. I peeled off to the right to avoid skating into the goalie, and then did a hard turn to jump back in the play. The puck was out in the slot, and I started to shout, "rebound! Somebody get the rebound!" when I realized that people were coming toward me instead of toward the puck. Meghan said, "nice one!" and held out her fist for a glove shake. "Did it go in?" I asked. "Yeah!" she replied. "It went in and came back out so fast the goalie didn't even see it."

I got more congrats on the bench, and Meghan informed me that the goalie was totally swearing after the goal. I tried to see it from her point of view: An opponent comes flying into the zone, cuts through her D like butter, and scores on her before she has time to react. It must've seemed like I was showing off or something, but really, I wasn't. I was just doing what I *should* have been doing for the past four years (which I think is the amount of time that passed between this goal and my last one). A shift or two later I got the puck again and had started to skate hard through the neutral zone with it when an opponent (I think it was the girl I'd been facing off against) came at me at an angle, dropped her shoulder, and nailed me in the chest. She definitely hit me hard enough to knock me down, but as I had my head up when she hit me, I saw her coming out of the corner of my eye and probably saved myself serious injury as a result. As I was getting up the ref skated by and said, "you OK?" without turning his head toward me. "Ah... yep." I replied, remembering the rule about talking to the refs. When I skated to the bench, Billy said, "I don't know how they could call you for hooking and then not call that! She definitely put her shoulder into it." I said, "yep, that was definitely a check. Thank god for chest protectors."

I can't remember whether my goal was the second or the third, but it was definitely early; after four Billy told us we should start working on our passing rather than our shooting. If we had a golden opportunity, we could take it, but our main goal should be to pass at least four times before taking a shot, and if that shot didn't go in, to make four more passes before taking another shot. At that point I slowed down to about 1/2 to 1/4 speed, just keeping up enough with my opponents so that they didn't feel alone on the ice, but not really challenging them. It takes more skill than I have to play down without playing sloppily/badly—Rob from Coastside was a master at it, and Big John was pretty good—but I think I acquitted myself fairly well. Meghan and Shelly and I really worked on passing, and we were still agressive about skating it in, going for it in the corner, etc. (Well, most of the time. There was one player who was pretty good, and she got between me and the puck in the corner. I still had a chance for it and started to get into digging position, but then I thought, "eh, let her have it." I stopped fighting, and let her bounce me off the boards with her hip and take the puck. When I looked up to see the ref standing right in front of us, I knew I'd made the right decision. (Laura asked me on the bench afterwards, "were you trying for the puck at all there in the corner?" Me: "No." A: "That's what I thought. :) "

I think the score was 5 or 6-0 when my line and Canadian Adrienne (we have lots of duplicates on the team: two Loris/Lauries, two Adriennes, and two Allisons, and two Angies, just off the top of my head), who plays D, ended up on the ice at the same time. I don't know if she's ever played hockey before, but she's played ringette since she was little, so she can really skate. At one point the puck came back to the D, and instead of just popping it forward while standing at the blueline, she skated it back into our zone, looked up to see where the forwards were, and started a breakout. We came out of our own zone with so much speed that when Shelly got the puck (either on a pass from Adrienne or from one of us, I can't remember), she skated it down the ice and took a shot on goal without passing. I saw the "oops" look on her face immediately after scoring and said to her, "that was just instinct, wasn't it?" She admitted it was; in the heat of a great breakout, she forgot we weren't supposed to just score like that.

When our line came off, Shelly suggested that we hang back and not go for the puck. Meghan and I agreed, and the next time we went on we hung back at the blueline and let them break out whenever they got the puck in their own zone. If we got possession, we totally worked on passing, and we didn't let our opponents take the puck up the ice while standing still, but we didn't actively try to knock them off the puck. After about a minute and a half of this, the puck came loose in the neutral zone, and it seemed to me like a good time to change. I got near the red line and dumped the puck hard into the zone, just like I had on Saturday. A second or two later I heard the ref blow the whistle and thought, "oh crap, I didn't get over the line." I figured we'd been called for icing. Laura skated to the bench and shouted, "WHO SHOT THAT?" I said, "I did." Laura: "It went in!" Me: "Oh, sorry!" Billy said, "Don't apologize, you just scored a goal!" Me: "I know, but we weren't supposed to, and I wasn't trying to. I was just trying to dump and change!" My accidental goal was #7 or #8, and we ended up winning 8-0.

It's funny, but the scoring, though nice, didn't make me feel exceptionally proud or anything. It was more about the move I made while *trying* to score, and about being confident on the ice. What a difference between playing with the Freeze and playing with the HNA!

Posted by Lori at 04:45 PM | Comments (1) | Link to This Entry

03 November 2006

Practice Makes Dorky

Although I'm thrilled to be on a team that has coached practices, I'm finding those practices a little frustrating. It's not Billy's fault or the team's fault; it's mine, in that I can't seem to relax and go with the flow. If a drill doesn't work out the way it's supposed to, I tend to get angry with myself and just stop... and I end up with the feeling that I totally suck. Thank god for games, which so far have proven that I *don't* suck (not totally, anyway).

I think it's mostly the strict patterns of the drills and the overthinking they inspire in me that causes the problem; that, and drilling on skills that I'm not particularly strong at over and over again. I do know how much it helps—it's why I wanted to be on a team that practices in the first place, to improve my skills—but that same personality trait that makes me hate homework also seems to make me listless and half-hearted at drills. The drills that feel like a real game I can get into—smooth breakouts, forechecking, etc.—but if I lose track of my passing target or can't tell who's D and who's O because we're all wearing different jersey colors, I attempt to pass with one hand on my stick, check half-heartedly, or just pull up altogether.

I'm going to have to get it together soon if I want to improve (and more importantly, if I want to have a good time), especially since we don't have a game to cheer me this weekend. The good news is that Sionan, who's new to hockey this season, reminded me at our last practice, after I'd screamed "I HATE THIS!" to the rafters, why we were there: "Don't worry about doing it right every time," she said. "It's about practicing a pattern. That way, in a game, you might recognize the pattern and do the right thing without thinking." Sionan, how you get so smart?

Posted by Lori at 12:04 PM | Link to This Entry

07 November 2006

Schweaty Czech

Last night's practice was a good one for me. I tried harder, and I didn't let it get to me if a drill went bad. It was also better because Linda (the other coach, whom I hadn't met yet) was there, and that meant that we could split up into two groups and do half-ice drills. Why is this better? Because (a) there's less standing around when there's a smaller group of people, and (b) the coach can give feedback about what we're doing without stopping the drill because s/he's standing right next to you.

I was hoping that Al would be able to take a little video and/or still shots of the practice while watching The Beaner at the same time (ha!), but he wasn't able to find a legal parking spot outside the rink, so he had to stay with the car. Instead he handed the camera to me over the glass while we were in the middle of the Czechoslovakian Drill. We did it quite slowly, but it was still a fast drill in general, and once we added a backchecker, I could barely get my breath between runs, much less shoot any decent video. Still, I did get this:

It was a fun drill to do; in fact, I can't think of a drill we did last night that wasn't fun. And I left the ice incredibly hot and sweaty, which is always a good sign. :)

Posted by Lori at 11:34 AM | Comments (1) | Link to This Entry

14 November 2006

The Blind Side

We had two games this weekend. The first, on Saturday, was against the Concord Flames, and we won handily. I had no goals, but I did have an assist (at least, I should have; I didn't actually check to see if it was scored), and I had a close-in shot that went under the goalie and came out a couple inches to the outside of the post. I'm assuming it deflected off a leg pad or something, because the shot was straight on. We had 15 people on our bench to their 9, which made the third period somewhat of a cakewalk. It became easy for me to chase down even their best skater and knock her off the puck. I only got one video clip of the game, but it gives a pretty good idea of how slow the pace was.

Alison (#11), Donna (#7), Tracey (solid teal), and Angie (#50)
getting back on D and then turning around to go on O

The most notable thing about the game for me was that I didn't get to play with Meghan, as I had the previous three games; Meghan started at Left Wing on the first line, and then moved back to D when Billy realized we had enough players for three complete lines. Instead I played with Tiffany, who's used to playing Left Wing but who agreed to play Right. There were a few moments of confusion with that where we both ended up on the left side, but when that happened I usually just went over to the right.

oh yeah
Alison in the locker room at NE Skatezone

On Sunday the tables were completely turned. We played a non-league game against the Lady Senators C team at the Flyers NE Skatezone, and this time we were the ones with only 10 skaters (9 to start, since Shelly had a skate problem) to their 15 or 16. We only had one person who regularly plays D (Laura), so we sent three forwards—Laurie N., Meghan, and Alison—back. Luckily I think all three of them had played D on Saturday, so it wasn't a complete shock to the system, but as the Senators were FAST and had good puck-control skills, it was still an enormous challenge.

The plan was for me and Little Angie (so-called because she's small and 15 years old and I don't know her last name; if she happens to read this and objects to the moniker, we'll settle on a new one) to play on a line with Shelly, and for Angie W. and Tiffany to play on a line with Donna. Since Shelly was still getting her skate fixed, Donna's line went out first. When Shelly still wasn't out two minutes into the game, Donna stayed on the ice while the wings changed... and Little Angie and I became her wings. It's only occurring to me now, but if we'd wanted to keep the lines as originally arranged, it probably would have been better to have me and Little Angie start so that when Shelly was ready, we could go on again as a line. Of course, we would have had to know when Shelly was coming for that to work, and we didn't. So anyway, Donna was the Center on my line until the third period, when we were all so tired that we started coming off out of order, and I ended up on the ice with Shelly.

The line arrangements are only tangentially related to the point of this post, which is really to explain what it was like for me to be playing Right Wing instead of my usual Left (Little Angie preferred Left, so I took Right). I've done it tons of times before, but this time I happened to notice something significant about it—namely, the reason I'm more comfortable at Left. As a lefty Left Wing coming into the offensive zone I'm at a slight disadvantage for shooting on net if I stay to the outside (which is why I've started making a point of skating to the middle), but on breakouts being a lefty on the lefthand side is perfect because I can take a pass up the boards on my forehand. (During a breakout drill at practice last week I usually took the pass with my skate if it was Angie W. making it, since she whacks the puck *hard*, but I could then easily kick the puck to my stick.) Not only is the puck on my forehand when I'm on the left side, but I can also see *who's with me to receive a pass*. This is absolutely key to breaking out; you have to be able to see that one of your teammates is coming up the middle with a full head of steam so you can pass to her.

It didn't occur to me until Donna mentioned for the second time that she was right there with me, waiting for a pass, when I popped the puck against the boards to clear the zone on a breakout. At first I thought that I was just using the boards because it'd been drilled into me to use them: "Keep the puck to the outside! Use the boards!" were mantras that had been repeated often by both Jeff and Lisa on the Admirals, and Billy says it regularly, too. I thought, "I'm finally doing it! I'm finally using the boards!" As I thought about it some more, however, I realized that I wasn't just using the boards because I was following good advice. I was using them because I COULDN'T SEE DONNA (or any of my other teammates, for that matter). The problem was that I was still taking the pass up the boards on my forehand, but now I was on the right side, not the left, so my back was to the rest of the ice. With a strong, speedy Defenseman right on me, my only choices were to try to pop the puck past her against the boards, or to make a blind backhand pass to the middle (or worse, a forehand pass to the slot). Which would you choose? (Btw, I love that my choice was unconscious rather than conscious; that, to me, is a GOOD sign.)

The weird thing was that both times Donna said she was with me, I also didn't see her when I chased the puck after popping it around the D. Did I not look up? Was I so focused on getting to the puck that I couldn't see my teammates around me? I'm not sure, but I know that it was a bit different during the third period, when Shelly was on the ice with me. She skated close enough to me and the Defenseman along the boards during the breakout that I could see her out of the corner of my eye (or right in front of me—once I remember seeing her standing next to the D when I lifted my head). The first time I saw her come that close, I tried to backhand the puck to her and ended up tipping it forward instead, which had the lucky effect of popping it past the D, where Shelly picked it up anyway. The second time, I passed to her successfully, and we were able to charge down the ice together. I think anyone watching us (and you can see a similar thing happening with Shelly and Tiffany in the video clip below) might think that Shelly and Tiffany/I were too close together, but for me it really worked well because it meant I could see her—and by the third period it became essential for us to work together to break out because the Senators caught on to our trick of popping it off the boards past the D. They just sent the other D or the Center straight to the boards to pick up the puck (something you can also see at the end of the video clip, where Angie W. successfully leads a charge out of the zone and then has the puck taken away by the backup Senator).

Tiffany (#4), Shelly (#5), Laurie N. (#28), Laura (#25), and Angie W. (#50)
working to get the puck out of our end

The other thing you can probably see in this video clip is that the speed of the game is faster than the one on Saturday. I skated my ass off for the first two periods of this game and just did my best to keep up in the third, when my legs were so sore I could barely force them to move. I only had one serious scoring chance, and it would have been for an assist, not a goal because I didn't have a good shooting angle. I'd skated down to the goal line to pick up a rebound (shot by Little Angie), and then I passed across the front of the crease to Donna. I'm not exactly sure what happened next; I saw Donna take a shot and somehow end up under the goalie, and the puck squirted out to Angie's side. I might have had one or two other times when I threw the puck in the general direction of the net, but that's about it. Shelly had one very good scoring opportunity, but alas, the puck did not go in. We ended up losing 4-0.

This would have been a good game for which to have a coach with us; sadly, neither Linda nor Billy could make it, which made for much more inter-period (and inter-shift) commenting amongst ourselves. Al was so right with his obvservation that having one person who's watching from OFF THE ICE tell us what s/he saw and what we need to work on between periods is absolute gold. It's one of the things (perhaps the primary thing) that makes this team better/more fun than most others I've played on. The other thing that I think really would have helped us is a deeper bench. I think with 15 skaters, we could have at least challenged the Senators; we might not have beat them, but the score would have been closer. It also would have been a good educational opportunity, because with two shifts of rest, you have more time to watch the game and observe how the other team operates. With only one shift off at the speed we were playing, we were (or at least I was) too busy sucking down air and water (and taking shaky videos) to pay much attention.

I'll end with one more video clip; it's harder to see what's going on at 320x240 that it was at 640x480, but for those of you who were on the ice, you'll probably remember. :)

Shelly, Angie W., and Tiffany breaking out (and then backchecking when the play turns around);
Meghan on D

Posted by Lori at 04:32 PM | Comments (3) | Link to This Entry

13 December 2006

Unreliable Narrator

In case you have any illusions that I am a reliable source of play-by-play action for the hockey games in which I am playing, let me disabuse you of that notion... at least when I can't see with my own eyes what's going on. I've noticed before that I often make assumptions about where someone was and what s/he was doing if I didn't actually see them. (I do this when I'm playing, too, often to my detriment: I assume someone's going to be where I expect him or her to be, and I don't look up before passing to that spot. It works sometimes, as when I played with Dan Taborga on Hoffman and Justin on Coastside; they made it a habit to be open in exactly the right spot 90% of the time. Most other times, however, I end up passing to nowhere—or worse, to the other team. Note to self: LOOK UP BEFORE PASSING, YOU IDIOT!)

Anyway, my point is that how I assume things happened is not always how they actually happened, and the video clip below (thanks, Shelly!) is a clear demonstration of that. But first, some background: In Saturday's game against the Lady Hawks at Warminster, Shelly (C) and I (LW) had already each scored a goal (I'll explain the details of mine later), but Meghan (RW) had not. We were determined to get Meghan a goal, so our last three shifts on the ice were all about passing to Meghan and getting her a good angle to shoot.

With 30 seconds to go in the game and the first line on the ice, Tracey happened to be passing by the bench on her way into the offensive zone, so Billy called her off and sent me out. In other words, I was on the ice without my usual linemates—but I was still in "get Meghan a goal" mode. This explains why, as we skated into the zone and Carol (C) got tangled up along the right-side boards, I skated over to dig out the puck and shouted "Carol, go to the net!" If I'd just been playing normally, I would have gone either to the high slot or crashed the net.

So I got control of the puck and passed it to one of my teammates and then turned toward the net myself. Unfortunately (because I now had my back to the boards), the puck was intercepted and came back down along the boards. Fortunately, the girl who was down by the goal line was really DOWN by the goal line, and I was able to pop the puck up the boards to the D. The D (I thought it was Steph, but I can see now in the video it was Angie, the RW; Steph had gone to the high slot) chipped the puck back in, I got it, I passed to Carol in front of the net, and she scored. Or at least, that's what I thought happened, because the last thing I said to Carol was "go to the net!", and that's where she was when she scored.

Here's what actually happened:

NOTE: I switched to Flash Video, so hopefully more of you can see this.
Mouse over the still frame to see the video controls.

OK, so you can see that I had it *mostly* right... except that when I was getting the chip-in from Angie, Carol was right behind me. Also, what I thought was a pass to Carol was really a shot on goal (which explains why Shelly, who was shooting the video, thought it was me who had scored). The goalie knocked my pass-that-ended-up-being-a-shot away with her stick, and Carol had enough time to skate from me to the net and easily poked the rebound through the five-hole. Not quite as pretty as I'd imagined it, but still a goal. Oh, and I think that's Billy saying something like, "Ooooo! Now where's she going?" when I turned my back on the boards. (And I can see how he *would* say that, because it was kind of a stupid move.)

There's no video of my goal, sadly, but it was a fun one. I can't remember how it was that the puck ended up behind the goal line in our offensive zone; my memory of the play starts with Meghan forechecking hard on the right side, while I came into the zone on the left. I saw an opponent skating toward the right side behind the goal to get the puck, and I had a feeling that with Meghan there, she'd wing it back around the boards toward me, so I skated in hard and went behind the net, too. Sure enough, my opponent passed the puck right to me without looking up first. (Totally something I would do, btw.) Shelly was the third girl in, and she went straight for the net. So did Meghan, as soon as the other girl passed to me. So I passed the puck out in front of the net, where there was a scuffle and a swinging of sticks; I'm not sure if the puck bounced off Meghan or if she or Shelly got a shot off, but the puck definitely hit the goalie.

Meanwhile, I turned and skated back around the net to the left side, I suppose with the thought that I'd do more good in front of the net than behind it. Just as I came around the post, the puck squirted out to my side. I thought to myself, "oh no, it can't possibly be that easy." And in games past, it wouldn't have been: I'd have panicked and missed the puck entirely. This time, however, I carefully put the back of my stick to the puck and flipped it into the net. Just as I heard the puck clunk the back post, one of the D realized I was over there and came over to cover me, knocking me to my knees in the process. It didn't matter though: The puck was in.

More went on in the game than just my goal and my semi-assist, of course; I think the final score was 5-0, with Claire scoring two goals (Shelly, Carol, and I had the other three, as mentioned above). Here's a clip of Angie, Tracey, and Claire getting several more scoring chances, and Claire getting knocked down for her trouble:

As in the previous clip, you'll see a whole mess of teal jerseys all on one side of the ice.
Not *quite* how it's supposed to work.

Posted by Lori at 12:59 PM | Comments (3) | Link to This Entry

18 December 2006

Don't Blink Or You'll Miss It

Apparently it's a tradition with the Philadelphia Freeze that the last practice of the year (i.e., the last one in December) is an intersquad scrimmage rather than an actual practice. We had our scrimmage tonight, and the C team will have theirs tomorrow (not sure if I'll go to that one or not; depends on family obligations). We had a few players from both the B and C squads come out to ours, and enough of our girls turned out that together we had two teams of about 11 each.

Shelly played about two shifts at wing and then went to change; her hip is still really sore from where she fell on it at the Warminster game. I was bummed not to have her on the ice... until I realized: SHE KNEW HOW TO WORK THE CAMERA. When she came out of the locker room I handed it to her, and she proceeded to get several (several!) really great clips of all of us. She even managed not to shake the camera while shooting, which is something I can't seem to do because I'm always panting so hard after coming off my own shift. :)

Here's the first video I encoded; it's of me scoring a goal, and I swear it looks like we arranged ahead of time for Shelly to get just enough context + the goal and then stop. I didn't edit it at all.

I'm #19, with the red, yellow, and black-striped socks.

Oh, and yes, I was deliberately skating that slowly; I was trying to be sneaky. I'll upload more video tomorrow, including some that shows me skating a bit faster (though not fast enough to steal the puck from Billy).

Posted by Lori at 11:56 PM | Comments (1) | Link to This Entry

20 December 2006

Instructional Video

OK, finally, some more video from Monday night's scrimmage. Here's a play I'm particularly proud of, followed by a great example of how *not* to pass, followed by some more fruitful forechecking. I'll break it down after the clip.

I'm #19, with the red, yellow, and black-striped socks;
Beaner is in the plain white jersey with the taped #1 on her back;
and Meghan's wearing Steph's #73 home jersey

On the plus side, check me out intercepting that dump-in and then actually continuing to skate with the puck! Meghan also had a great shot on goal, and I had what seemed to the average bystander like a sweet backhand pass to Beaner. Let's take a closer look at that, however:

blind pass
me passing blindly, as usual

Beaner saves the day
Beaner saving the day by hustling to the puck

And now a slowed-down clip of what happened next: namely, Beaner putting on a clinic on the proper way to deke and backhand-pass.

Notice how she looks up to see where Meghan is right before the deke, and then looks again as she's passing? That's what I should be doing. (By the way, this is the nice shot of Meghan's that I was referring to. Way to go, Meghan!) It'd also be nice to be able to deke as well (and, heck, to SKATE as well) as Beaner, but I think that might take a few more years of practice... or some power skating clinics. She's been playing hockey since she was 9, in case you were curious; I have no idea how old she is now, but I'd guess she's been playing for at least 10 years.

One more thing I wanted to break down, because it's something I'm proud of, even though it might look stupid at first glance.

skating towards the boards
See how I'm skating to the boards to prevent my opponent from clearing the puck?
(Never mind that I probably should have been skating to GET the puck instead.)

the battle
And see how my opponent grabs the puck and quickly changes direction,
just as I'm setting up for the intercept up the boards?

And see how she seems to have faked me out completely?

around the boards
But ah, wait just a second! As my opponent is forced to clear
the puck around the boards in the opposite direction...

Meghan getting the puck
suddenly that almost-intercept along the boards doesn't seem so stupid after all.
Let's hear it for forechecking!

Posted by Lori at 12:06 PM | Link to This Entry

17 January 2007

Practicing Sticktoitiveness

We played the White Lighting—the team we beat 1-0 before the break—in West Chester on Sunday and again won 1-0. I had a few proud moments, including the two passes from Shelly that I caught while driving into the zone (though both times my shots went wide), as well as a few dorky ones; here I'm thinking mostly of my first shift, in which I didn't seem to know which direction we were headed, and my last, when I tried to be everywhere at once after our opponents pulled their goalie. Both shifts felt unnecessarily chaotic for me. Shelly had our only goal, which she scored in the second period. The scoresheet had me down for the assist, but I never touched the puck on that play; I was fighting for space down low when Shelly's shot whizzed by and caught the back corner of the net.

Anyway, while sitting on the bench between shifts, I started to notice a pattern in our play: Time after time, when challenged, we didn't fight for the puck. If an opponent got the puck away from us, we'd stand up, drop our shoulders in defeat, and let them have it. Yikes! I made a mental note to ask Billy about possibly practicing sticking with the puck and not giving up so easily when we went out to dinner after the game.

Unfortunately, Billy couldn't join us for dinner, and Al and I ended up at the other end of the table from my teammates. I could hear some of the hockey-related conversation, but I couldn't join it because (a) I had a toddler on my lap who needed my attention, and (b) my teammates couldn't hear me when I tried to interject questions anyway. After we'd eaten I ended up taking a chair down to the other end of the table for a few minutes. I mentioned my observation about our lack of sticktoitiveness in the neutral zone especially, but I think Jill misunderstood what I was trying to say; it's true that sticktoitiveness is somewhat backchecking-related, but it doesn't really have anything to do with getting back when the play turns around, as she complained that we Forwards don't do (that's a different problem). Rather than try again with the same point, I followed up with a related point: that it'd be great if we could practice trying to take the puck away from our opponents and then continuing to skate.

She understood this point: "You mean skating through people." Yes, with my follow-up point, that's exactly what I was thinking of. "You can't practice that," she said. "You can't drill for that. That's about being strong enough, and some girls will never be strong enough." There was also some mention of Wanting the Puck, which is also hard to teach. At this point the Beaner (our Beaner, not to be confused with just Beaner of the B team) pulled some of the streamers off a piñata hanging from the ceiling, and we made a rather hasty exit (after dropping our $$ for dinner on the table). As we walked out I repeated the conversation to Al and said, "I agree that it's partly about strength, but I think more than strength, it takes confidence." Plus, I think you *can* drill sticktoitiveness (i.e., my original point), and I think sticktoitiveness leads to winning the battle for the puck, which in turn leads to confidence.

Luck was on my side last night: Al ended up dropping me off at the rink for practice a bit early, so I was dressed before any other players got there. Billy had just arrived when I emerged from the locker room, so I went over to talk to him about my game observation. I mentioned a drill that I remembered doing at the Sharks practice I went to back in 2002, and that I thought the point had been to practice both keeping the puck away from your opponent (if you had the puck) and knocking your opponent off the puck (if you didn't). (In re-reading my entry about it now, I can see that that was, indeed, the point.) Billy said, "yeah, we could do something like that," and started sketching the drill out loud.

When we got on the ice he announced that we'd be doing some drills to give Nielle, our goalie, a workout, and then we'd be doing one "courtesy of Lori." Ack! I hadn't realized he was going to give me credit (or, perhaps as my teammates would see it, blame). The good news is that we ended up doing about three drills before we got to mine, which meant that after a couple, "is this yours?" questions, most people forgot about it. Finally Billy had the D go down to one end of the ice to practice slapshots from the point, and then he brought one puck back to the other end of the ice and told the Forwards his plan: "Ruthann, you line up here next to Shelly. Angie W, next to Lori. Donna, next to Carol. And Angie G, next to Tiff. OK, Shelly, choose a number, 1 or 2." Shelly chose 2. "OK, Ruthann, when I blow the whistle, you skate the puck into the zone and try to keep it away from Shelly. Shelly, you try to steal it from her, but KEEP THE PUCK IN THE ZONE." Shelly replied, "You mean I can't clear it?" Billy said no, and I added, "you can't shoot, either." Right, said Billy. No shooting. "I'll blow the whistle after 40-45 seconds, and whoever has the puck, pass it to the next person in your line, and the next pair will go out. Go!"

I think everyone was a little confused at first, but after the pass to the second pair (me and Angie), the point of the drill became clear. It also became clear why the pros only skate for 40-45 seconds at a time: If you're working that whole time, 40 seconds feels like FOREVER. We were all panting like crazy (I know it wasn't just me, because there's no way I could have fogged up the whole ice surface all by myself, and it *was* completely fogged up), and I, for one, was exhilirated. It was fun and exciting (in addition to tiring) to fight so determinedly for the puck. Tiff remarked in between gasps of air, "It's just like a game!" It was also a revealing drill: it became obvious who was good at guarding and/or stealing the puck, who had strength, who had speed, and who didn't give a shit. I was impressed with Angie W's instict to skate to open ice whenever she got control of the puck (something she does well in games, too), and with Ruthann's amazing ability to guard the puck, for example. The real payoff for me came during the next drill, however.

Billy explains a drill
Billy draws the backchecking drill on the whiteboard

It was a backchecking drill that we'd practiced before, where one girl starts at the boards near the goal line with a puck. She skates behind the net, looks up as she rounds the far post, and makes a pass to the girl up at the point. The girl at the point then passes to the original skater as she crosses the blueline, and they go into the offensive zone together and try to score. Meanwhile, a third girl—the backchecker—is standing at the inside hashmarks and starts skating as soon as the first skater gets behind the net. She gives chase, taking either the first girl or the second at her discretion. If she's fast enough, she might break up the pass at the blueline. If she's slower, she might take the second girl going into the zone and either break up a pass there or force the first girl to shoot. All three girls are to play until the whistle—until the backchecker clears the puck out of the zone, the goalie covers the puck, or somebody scores.

What was really cool about this drill is that everyone who'd participated in the keepaway drill seemed to fight harder for the puck once she got into the offensive zone—especially Tiff. The difference was amazing, even thrilling. I hope we can carry that sticktoitiveness into our two games this weekend, especially the one on Saturday, which is against the Senators C team that we lost to a couple months ago. I think with three full lines and plenty of want-the-puck fiestiness, we can give them a run for their money. If we do, that'll build our confidence for the league game on Sunday against the Delaware Phoenix down in Newark. Go Freeze! Don't give up!

Posted by Lori at 12:03 PM | Comments (2) | Link to This Entry

08 February 2007

Backlog = Brain Fart

I'd originally intended to write about our non-league game against the Senators on the day we played it, since we also had a game the next day, and I didn't want to confuse events. I started writing, got tired, ran out of creative steam... and then promptly forgot what happened. Here's what I wrote that night:

We played a rematch against the Senators C team at UPenn this morning. There were several differences between this game and the last one: First, and probaby most importantly, we had two more skaters. (Three would have been better, as it would have given us three full forward lines instead of the two Centers/3 sets of Wings configuration we ended up playing with.) Second, they had far fewer skaters than last time; I didn't count, but one of my teammates said that they only had nine or ten. Third, I felt like I didn't skate *nearly* as hard... until the third period. And fourth, our ice is smaller than the sheet at NE Skatezone. I'm not sure if that last one had anything to do with how the game went, but they seemed to notice it (and so did I, the the couple times I hit the boards while trying to take a stride).

First period, they scored on us.

Second period, no score.

We finished the second, and then Billy told us to stay out and start the third. Laurie won the faceoff forward and just kept going. Meghan and I drove into the zone with her, so their D had to worry about all of us, not just Laurie. As I crashed the net on the left side, Laurie let one fly. Like Shelly's shot last week, it was at the perfect angle: It zinged right past the goalie's right foot and into the net. I didn't look at the clock at that moment, but it couldn't have been more than 30 seconds into the third period. The score was now tied, 1-1.

... And then something happened. It's now been over two weeks since I wrote the above, so I can't remember all the details. What I DO seem to remember is that it was an awesome, top-shelf goal by Meghan that won the game for us, and that after this goal, we managed to hold our opponents off even when they outnumbered us six skaters to five.

And now, for your amusement, here's a video of me skating really slowly and ineffectually in the first period of that game. It's out of focus because I neglected to mention to Donna, when I showed her how to use the camera, that it's best to point the camera at the subject and then press down on the shutter release gradually. That's when the focusing happens.

Despite my lackadaisical manner, there's one thing I'm proud of here:
I'm not standing still.

Photos from this game:

getting back pick up stick I'm not sure what's happening here... shelly getting back to cover jump back jill comes in to take a shot tiff

There's more to come, I promise.

Posted by Lori at 04:15 PM | Comments (1) | Link to This Entry

13 February 2007

Running Commentary

Alternate titles for this post: "I Knew I Shouldn't Have Given The Camera to Meghan", "Yes, She Always Talks Like This On The Bench", and "What Do You Mean, SKATING AROUND LIKE A RETARD???" I know it's out of order—there will be more recaps and videos from the games and practices that have happened since our surprise victory over the Senators coming soon—but this is from the scrimmage we played against the Americans C team during our practice slot last night. We lost 2-0, but it was fun. Thanks to the Americans—and especially the refs!—for coming out. An extra special thanks to Shelly for arranging the whole thing—again, especially the refs.

Here's the video Meghan shot of me (normally she's on my line, but last night we switched, and Marnie played Right Wing with me and Shelly). It's HUGE—6.6MB—mainly because I preserved Meghan's play-by-play commentary in all its critical glory, and because she kept shooting for over a minute. I'm sure if I'd edited out the comments about my cluelessness and (lack of) skating ability, it'd be smaller.

NB: Just because Meghan doesn't know what I'm doing doesn't mean *I* don't know what I'm doing.

Posted by Lori at 01:32 PM | Comments (10) | Link to This Entry

14 February 2007


Things that stick in my mind about the game we played against the Delware Phoenix down in Newark (that's New ArK, not the more famous Newerk) a couple weeks ago:

~ The rink was Olympic-sized, the facility was large and bright, and the skate shop (which was really more about UD souvenirs and clothing than hockey equipment) had the hockey jock I needed (mine had a humongous hole in region of my right ass cheek).

~ The ice totally sucked. Rutted, pitted, and wet. Yuck.

~ My sister came. Yes, MY SISTER CAME TO SEE ME PLAY HOCKEY. This is big news, because she's never seen me play before, and I so wanted to share my love of hockey with her.

~ I was called for obstruction about 15 seconds into the game because I lifted an opponent's stick and then didn't have enough arm strength to shake her off and go for the puck myself. Holding an opponent's stick up without making a play for the puck is now a huge no-no under the new USA Hockey rules. Yet another reason to start lifting weights while reading e-mail.

penalty!me in the box
me skating toward, and taking a seat in, the penalty box

~ Mine was the first penalty of the game, of course, but it was not the last—there were three or four more in the first period, and then they finally just let us play. By the time an opponent roughly my size tried to stand me up as I went for the puck behind the net in the third period—resulting in not one but three separate, intentional collisions between us as I tried to, and finally did, work my way through—the refs weren't whistling anything. And thank god, because that kind of contact was exhilhirating. I'm no fan of checking, but occasional full body contact (as opposed to, say, elbows) makes the game more fun.

~ We were sort of sluggish in the first period. It seems to be a pattern for us as a team as well as us (Meghan, Shelly, and me) as a line. I've found that I kind of prefer being on the second line because it gives me a minute to get my head in the game. If we start as the first line, I can almost guarantee it'll be a throwaway shift. (This is probably true of my first shift no matter what line I'm on, but it seems more pronounced when we're the first line.) The penalties probably had something to do with the slow start, as well as the larger ice, but I also suspect that as a team we just like to size our opponents up for a little while before we decide how we're going to take them apart.

~ During that slow start, we were scored upon—possibly (does anyone remember for sure?) by the girl from whom Angie steals the puck in the latter half of the following video (which also features NIELLE making a save):

~ In the second period, we got our act together. I think it might even have been our first shift out in the second where Shelly won the faceoff over to me, I poked the puck past my check and dove after it, and all three of us skated into the offensive zone together with me carrying. I passed to Meghan, who passed to Shelly, who took a shot and scored. WooT! The whole play took like 10-20 seconds. We went back to the faceoff circle... and then did it again. This time Shelly won the faceoff over to me, I passed back to Shelly, and Shelly passed to Meghan, who took a shot and scored. Double WooT! [Update: Apparently this is another case of faulty memory on my part. See Shelly's comment below re: the fact that she won the faceoff to Alison, who passed up to me BOTH TIMES. I honestly don't remember that, but then, as you can see, there isn't much I do remember from this game.]

~ The boards were really high... or rather, the bench was really low. Either way, it was tough getting on and off the ice without breaking an ankle. (You can kinda see what I mean in the photo of me in the penalty box, above—everyone's helmets are at about the same level as the top of the boards.)

~ We spent a lot of time on the bench talking and laughing, which is usual for our team in general and my line in particular. This demonstrates both that I love this team and why I love this team. Honestly, I had no idea playing women's hockey could be so much fun.

my linemates
Meghan and Shelly on the bench

~ We won the game.

Some things I don't remember:

~ What the score was.

~ Who else scored besides Meghan and Shelly (I'm pretty sure someone did).

~ What happened in the second period, aside from the two goals scored by my linemates. The only evidence I have of anything happening at all is this video, which shows Steph being everywhere at once:

I'm pretty sure Steph (73) was playing D in this game.

~ What happened in the third period, aside from the body contact mentioned above.

When I came off the ice I checked in with my sister to see if she was OK (i.e., warm enough) and whether she enjoyed the game, and she mentioned (a) that she was not at all warm, (b) that she wasn't sure what was going on most of the time, but that we all seemed about the same speed and ability—except for "the one with the white socks and the different jersey" [Ruthann], who seemed faster, and (c) that the first Phoenix player off the ice remarked to her cheering squad, "man, those guys were good!"

Posted by Lori at 09:38 PM | Comments (7) | Link to This Entry

20 February 2007

Claire's One-Timer

I don't have much to say about our last league game, which was against the Concord Flames on Superbowl Sunday; I think the final score was 6-0 (or something similar). I do, however, have two videos from that game, including one of Claire scoring a goal firing off a one-timer. I was focused on the area of the ice between the point and the slot at the time, so I only got the shot, not the puck entering the net. It looks like the goalie's covering, but by the time the camera focuses on the goalie, the puck's in the back of the net. As Nielle points out in her comment below, the puck did NOT go in. That was my impression at the time, but I had thought from everyone's reactions that maybe I'd gotten it wrong. Looking at the video at full size, I can clearly see the puck staying in front of the goalie's knees.

Anyway, good job Steph and Tiff, who would have had assists had the puck gone in. (Tiff also had a goal in the game, but I didn't get it on video—which is too bad, because it was kind of funny. Tiff knocked the puck under the goalie and then nearly followed it... on her back. :)

Claire (76) can't quite reach the puck, but Steph (73) keeps it in,
and Tiff (4) knocks it back to Claire, who fires a one-timer.

The other video is mostly notable for the fact that nobody covered D for A.T. when she drove in deep. Neither is an uncommon occurance, given A.T.'s speed and puck-handling abilities and the enthusiasm it inspires in the Forwards. Normally I'm a "go-go-go!" Forward, encouraging any Defenseman who's got momentum to continue past me and let me cover back. If I've got a head of steam as well, however, I'm likely to follow the charging D into the zone, as I did in the video Meghan shot of me. In this case the last Forward in has to cover, which doesn't always happen. Luckily A.T.'s speed (and our opponents' lack of it) meant that this time it didn't bite us... but we've got to make sure we're not so cavalier against speedier opponents.

Angie (50), Claire (76), and—emerging from the pack down low—A.T. (23).
Alison (11) and Tiff (4) become visible later.
Pretend you don't see the pass to our opponents at about 13 seconds in.

Posted by Lori at 02:28 PM | Comments (2) | Link to This Entry

26 February 2007

So Many Videos (And So Many Goals)

I seem to have a backlog of hockey videos; I'll go through my entire collection when I'm finished writing and see if there are any unpublished gems worth posting. The ones in this post will be from our 8-1 victory on Saturday against the Central Penn Blades. I had one of those eight goals, and Meghan had three. Yes, Meghan got a hat trick! She's obviously gotten over her fear of scoring. :)

I'm going to claim a virtual assist on her third goal, even though my main contribution to the play was to turn my back on her as Meghan skated toward the net with the puck. Why? Because I did it on purpose: firstly, so she wouldn't be tempted to pass to me (we were up 6-0 at that point, and only Meghan and anyone who hadn't yet scored were allowed to shoot, so passing to me would have been kinda pointless), and secondly, to try to draw the defender who was covering me away from the net. The plan worked: Meghan had an "ack, where did Lori go?" moment, and then the slot magically cleared as my defender had a similar thought, and followed me. I was happy that Meghan got her hat trick, of course, but I felt kinda bad for the defender, who got an earful from her teammate about following me instead of taking Meghan. (It seems to me that the yeller should have been the one covering Meghan, but oh well. I'm sure at that point they were all pretty frustrated.)

The first video I have to share is of Steph scoring her goal; sorry that it's a bit shaky, but I was holding the camera over my head at first, and I was tired from the shift I'd just completed. If I remember correctly (and, as I've proven time and again, I'm as likely to remember INcorrectly as not), my goal was similar in that it was also a backhander on the same side. Well, it was definitely on that same side, anyway. What was different about mine is that Meghan, Shelly and I had been working down low for quite a while before I eventually scored it; as you can see from this clip, Steph pretty much controls the puck the entire time, whizzes by the net, and scores.

As usual, Steph (73) was playing D.
I love that she's not afraid to take it in when she sees an opportunity.

The next video is of me; we had a floater going through our line in the first period, so Meghan was available to shoot this. (I'd already missed my opportunity to return the favor at this point, but I think I have a bunch of videos starring Meghan from our scrimmage against the Americans that I haven't posted yet.) Nothing exciting happens in this clip, but I like it because you can see my normal playing stye—a mix of looping around casually, Mario Lemieux post-comeback-style, and charging in hard—in it. It also shows me covering for Steph when *she* charged in at one point (and then switching with her when she decided not to go all the way in after all).

I'm #38, coming up on the near side.

Other people who scored in this game besides me, Steph, and Meghan: Angie G. (her first goal, I think!), Angie W. (with a one-timer off a pass from Donna, I believe), and A.T. (Donna got the assist on this one, too).

Posted by Lori at 06:38 PM | Link to This Entry

28 February 2007

Four More

OK, as promised, last night after practice I went through all the videos I hadn't yet posted looking for gems. After putting the first two into the Flash Video Encoder queue, I was thinking that this post should be called, "All Meghan, All The Time," but after re-watching all four, it's actually more like "The A.T. Show".

Since I don't commentate while filming—partly because I'm concentrating on holding the camera steady (ha!), and partly because I have a mouthguard in that makes me practically unintelligible—I'll give a little text description of each video. First up is one of A.T. making the stop on a shot and then breaking out. I noticed in our last game (the one against the Central Penn Blades on Saturday) that Meghan doesn't cherrypick, exactly, but if the puck is on the far side of the ice from her, she'll get open up near the red line or the far blueline. She gets a lot of passes because of this.

A.T. getting control of the puck and making a cross-ice pass to Meghan

The next video doesn't really show much of anything, but I thought Meghan would want to see it because it shows her skating around. (While encoding it the phrase "there's Meghan... skating... skating... skating" kept running through my head, probably because that's what she said about me while shooting the Running Commentary video. :) This is actually a partial clip of a much longer video, but since Meghan was just standing at the blue line waiting for the play to develop for the first 10 seconds or so, I cut that part out.

Meghan (24), Laurie (28), Sionan (@ left wing; I don't know what number she was wearing for this scrimmage)
and A.T. (23). I'm not sure who the other D was; maybe Adrienne Shaw?

Next is a tiny little clip of Laurie winning the faceoff straight back to A.T., and A.T. firing off a slapshot. I was so busy admiring the slap shot at first that I didn't think so much about how the puck ended up on A.T.'s stick, but if you turn your attention to the faceoff itself, you'll see a classic win by Laurie. Very nice.

Laurie (28) at Center; A.T. (23) at right D.
Meghan's playing Right Wing, and Sionan's at Left.

Finally, we have Donna and Ruthann working very hard to keep the puck in the offensive zone, Alison helping out with a stop at the point and a flip pass to A.T., and A.T. taking another slapshot on net.

Donna (7) at Center, Ruthann (8), and Steph (73, playing forward for a change);
Alison (wearing a borrowed jersey of which I can't read the number) and A.T. (23) on D.

Posted by Lori at 05:30 PM | Comments (1) | Link to This Entry

19 March 2007

The Season That Was, Part 1: Regrets

I'll write a separate post that goes into more detail about what actually happened at the playoffs this weekend later; for now I need to address the depression that hit me like a heavy curtain while we were eating dinner after yesterday's game. I realized that the season was over, that there'd be no practice on Monday, that there would be no chance to improve my skills (both hockey and interpersonal) within the context of the team until September, and I suddenly had that horrible feeling I used to get the day after spending a night out drinking with friends. (Do you get that feeling? The one where you're feeling physically hungover, emotionally abandoned, and slightly worried about anything really stupid or offensive you might have done the night before? It's led to many a temporary depression for me, which is one of the reasons I don't go out drinking anymore.)

I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping ever since we came back from Hawaii nine days ago, but it was specifically these feelings of sadness and regret that kept me restless, sweaty, and wide awake last night. The short list of what I couldn't stop agonizing over:

  • How much I annoyed my teammates by screaming "LEEEEEEEEEEFT!" at the top of my fucking lungs every time I made a not-at-a-whistle line change. It's something I've been doing for years in cases where I can't lock eyes with the person who's coming on for me (and in Sunday's game, I could almost never find that person on the bench due to a couple factors—one being that the lines kept changing, and another being that the configuration of the bench made it hard to either go over the boards OR get in and out of the doors), so it was a hard habit to break anyway, but it got harder the more frustrated I got over the course of the game. I finally did break it, but by that time I think everyone had totally shunned me.
  • The fact that I couldn't adapt to right wing. I've never minded changing sides on the fly during a play, but sticking at right wing seems to be a problem for me—and everything I thought I'd learned during the last game I played at right wing did not apply here because I was playing with different linemates (and with a coach this time). Instead of just popping the puck off the boards every time as I did against the Senators, this time I actually looked in the space between me and the high slot for a breaking teammate. Not finding anyone the first time (and seeing a Phoenix player standing at a spot where I'd be more likely to pass to her than pop it past her), I tried to pass up to the neutral zone through that space in hopes that the Center or Left Wing were just farther up than I could see. I ended up passing to another Phoenix player, to my horror. The second time this happened (on the same shift), I finally spotted a teal jersey in the middle up near the blue line... and ended up passing to Laura, who plays D. She seemed very surprised, to say the least, and Billy did some yelling about "ALWAYS USE THE BOARDS! NEVER GO UP THE MIDDLE!" when I came off. So I was extremely frustrated AND extremely disappointed in myself after that one.
  • The trip south that my attitude took the more frustrated I got, and the more frustrated my teammates got with me for being such a negative Nelly.
  • Billy joking (I think) about having to stand between the two people who gave him the hardest time (me and Sionain, the latter being a mystery to both of us, judging by the look on Sionain's face when he said it) during the team photo. Gads, was I also annoying the crap out of Billy?

So in addition to being sad that there's just no Freeze hockey anymore for the next six months, I'm sadder still that I won't have an opportunity to turn things around. In the past when I've had a particularly bad pratice, especially one where I felt like I was so frustrated that I was radiating negativity at everyone else, I was always able to redeem myself at the next game or practice with a fresh attitude and a new chance for par, to use my standard golf analogy (as in, shake off the 10 on the last hole; each tee box represents a new chance for par).

There are several things that have given me cause for cheer in the past 24 hours, though, and I'm clinging to those in the hopes that they'll drag me up out of this stupid depression and allow me to sleep—finally!—tonight, namely:

  • Shelly reminding us (and me in particular) that the reason we were playing poorly is that we were frustrated, and that our team had always been about the FUN. If we weren't having fun, we weren't playing our game. Thank you, Shelly, for making my last shift or two much more enjoyable than all the previous ones by helping me refocus on the FUN.
  • A nice e-mail exchange with Alison today, in which we looked forward to the Monday night open women's hockey at NE Skatezone this spring and summer (first session is at 7:30pm on April 16; next after that is April 30, continuing through August).
  • Knowing that the Vancouver tournament is only two months away. (Man, I wish Shelly and Meghan and several other of my Freeze teammates could come, tho. It's too bad my favorite tournament is so expensive to get to from Philadelphia!)
  • Looking at the photos I took after Sunday's game.
  • Watching the video of the post-game pep talk Jill gave in the locker room.

"There is no I in team. But there is a Me."

Next up will either be a recap of the weekend's games as best I can remember them (and chances are, unfortunately, that I won't remember much, given my sleep-deprived brain and the fact that I was two hyped up to take any photos or video) or an assessment of the state of my skills after my first season with the Freeze (the first season in a long time where I felt like I actually improved), depending on which I feel more equipped to write about first.

Posted by Lori at 05:27 PM | Link to This Entry

21 March 2007

The Season That Was, Part 2: Playoff Recap

I missed the last two games of the season due to a family vacation, but I returned to find that we won both of them—meaning that we finished in first place, with a record of 11-0-1. There was some drama while the fourth playoff spot was determined (different combinations of outcomes would mean different teams in the fourth spot), but it was eventually determined that we'd be playing the White Lightning in the first round on Saturday the 17th. The White Lighting are the team that we only managed to beat 1-0 in our two regular-season meetings.

Everyone got to the rink early on Saturday, but Angie Wong was missing because she had to work, and Jo was traveling for a wedding. A.T. didn't qualify for the playoffs because she hadn't played enough regular-season games with us, but she came anyway to cheer us on and work the doors on the bench (totally necessary, given the bench configuration). With both A.T. and Jo out, that left us a bit short on D, and with Angie gone, that meant a total of 15 skaters. To make the lines even, Meghan moved back to D. (Wah!) Instead of Meghan, Shelly and I had Angie G. (Little Angie) at Right Wing.

This turned out to be a great thing for us, because Angie G. was on freakin' FIRE. She came out smokin', scored a goal as I was coming off the ice on our first or second shift, and was all over our opponents. She even passed well, for goodness sake. I believe it was Angie who passed to me instead of shooting herself when we were both down low on our next shift out, and I took a shot. The goalie was down and covering the net pretty well, but with her weight shifted toward Angie. I'm still not quite sure how I did it—I'm guessing all the practicing and the visualization really helped—but I buried the puck in the far top corner of the net, behind the goalie's head. Shelly said I tilted my head back and closed my eyes after the shot, like I was either giving thanks or expressing extreme relief, but I don't remember it. I just remember thinking, "wow, that worked!"

I believe it was Ruthann who scored the next goal, but it was a bit hard to see from my spot on the bench. And sadly, there's not much else I remember from this game aside from a quite good penalty kill that Alison, Shelly, and I participated in (who was the 4th person, Meghan? I can't remember). It sticks in my mind because we did a good job of sending one person in to attack (either Shelly or Alison), and always making sure someone got back (a couple times that was me). At one point during this penalty kill I basically just stood at the blueline while Shelly singlehandedly kept at least two opponents plus the goalie busy in the offensive zone. She had at least two shots on goal and probably killed about 20 or 30 seconds before the Lightning were able to clear the puck back to the neutral zone.

We ended up winning the game 5-1, with additional goals by Shelly (again while I was in the process of leaving the ice—who needs me, anyway?) and Steph.

On Sunday, those of us who didn't stay to watch the Delaware Phoenix play the Lehigh Valley Wicked awoke to find that the Phoenix had come out on top, 5-2. Personally, I'd kinda hoped to play the Wicked, since I'd missed both of the regular-season games against them, and I wanted to see what they were like. We were 2-0 against the Phoenix, though (vs. 1-0-1 against the Wicked), so the Phoenix seemed like a good opponent to draw.

EXCEPT THEY WEREN'T. Oh, they were good opponents in the sense that they played really fairly—no dirtiness, no nastiness, etc.—and in the sense that they played really well. They just weren't so great if you consider that we wanted to WIN.

On my first shift out on the ice I had my legs accidentally taken out from under me by an opponent who fell. I tucked as best I could—funnily enough, my upper abs are still sore from the speed and violence of that tuck—but I still hit the back of my head on the ice, resulting in an instant headache and whiplash-related neck pain for the past few days. The game went pretty much downhill from there for me; it felt like I could never really get it together. Not because of the fall, which I forgot about a shift later, but because I got confused... and as anyone who's ever practiced with me knows, if I get confused, I get frustrated, and if I get frustrated, it's a short hop to angry.

The confusion started when Tiff went down with an injury to her left leg and had to sit out for the rest of the first period. We ended up changing the lines on every shift, with Billy letting us know which three forwards were going out next. (This is how I ended up at right wing for a couple shifts.) It became obvious to me that while my speed, confidence, and shooting ability have all improved this year, much of my success with the Freeze is due to the rhythym I've developed with my linemates. I usually know where Shelly and Meghan are going to be, and both of them are really good at catching my sometimes off-target passes. (Meghan is especially easy to hit with cross-ice passes; all you have to do is fling it hard to a space about 5-15 feet in front of where she is now, and she'll get to it.) I didn't have this rhythym with other players, and the Phoenix were so good at getting to the puck, blocking passing lanes, and just generally being in the way that even when I looked up, I often couldn't find any teal jerseys. I also could have skated more with the puck, especially when breaking out at right wing, which I didn't do.

We ended up losing 6-3, with me being on the ice for two of the goals scored against us and for none of the ones we scored against them. Steph had the first goal for the Freeze; she just kept working, as she usually does (see the video of her from our last game against the Phoneix, and you'll get the idea), until she finally got a shot to go in. Laurie Narciso had the last two in her last shift on the ice. The second one went in from an impossible angle—she was standing at about the goal line at the time—with three seconds left, interrupting the Phoenix bench's countdown to victory. :) I screamed "HAAAAT TRIIIIIICK!" when they returned to the faceoff circle, but three goals in 56 seconds is a lot to ask of one person.

The two quick goals reminded me of why I'd wanted to score early and often against this team: To take the goalie out of it. Even really good goalies can get flustered when scored upon, which is probably how Meghan and Shelly managed to score on this goalie in quick succession the last time we played them (because Donna had softened her up on the previous shift, I think). Anyway, it wasn't in the cards this day, but it was still an amazing season. I loved playing with this team—I had so much more fun than I ever expected, and improved my skills to boot—and now I can't wait for September! Many thanks to all my teammates and especially to Billy for making it fun and educational.

nielle, meghan, and shelly again

Posted by Lori at 05:57 PM | Comments (4) | Link to This Entry

23 March 2007

The Season That Was, Part 3: Assessment of Skills

Things I can do now that I couldn't do before this season:

  • Lift the puck reliably. I think the breakthrough on this front came in the warm-up before a practice (maybe the one where we had the intersquad scrimmage?), when I top-shelfed the puck *five times in a row*, at speed. I think sometimes I'm still scooping the puck instead of lifting it as part of a hard shot, but if it goes past the goalie—as it did in the first round of the playoffs—who cares?
  • Sprint. Nielle actually saw me do it in the championship game. Afterwards she gave a wonderfully (or embarrassingly, depending on how you look at it) realistic imitation of my usual skating style, and then marvelled at how surprising it was to see me actually bend my knees, shorten my stride, and flat-out sprint. I felt the difference, too, and I'll be doing it more often from now on.
  • Skate with the puck. I don't always do it (see: any game where I'm playing Right Wing), but I'm much more inclined to do it now than I ever have been before.
  • Skate through people. My default mode now: keep going. Don't stop for anyone. (I had to modify this strategy a bit during the championship game, when I didn't always have complete control of the puck when I got within range of an opponent. In that case, I learned to knock the puck away from both of us and then chase it down. I figured I could go faster forwards than any defender could go backwards—especially if she was skating towards me to begin with—and the couple times I tried it, I was right.)
  • Play with confidence 95% of the time. I think this is partly due to the general increase in my skill level, and partly due to the supportive atmosphere. Again I must give credit to Lee, who was right that playing with women would build my confidence. I originally thought he meant because women weren't as good, and thus would make softer opponents—and maybe that is what he meant—but I now understand that it's more that none of the women I play with think they should be in the NHL. Whereas men at the lower levels tend to have delusions of grandeur, the women tend to be self-deprecating and encouraging of others. This makes the game more fun for everyone, and, I think for me at least, it provides a safe environment in which to fail—and thus to improve. Specific shout-outs to Nielle for wonderfully constructive criticism, Sionain for being calm and commonsensical (if that's a word) when I got frustrated with drills, Shelly for reminding me to have fun, and Meghan for making me laugh at myself.
  • Move to the middle instead of staying on the outside. This is somewhat related to skating through people, and, now that I think about it, also related to another new ability: dekeing. Others on the team do it much better (Laurie Narciso comes to mind), but I'm thrilled that I can do it at all—and that I don't panic when it looks like someone's between me and the goal. As one of the Hull brothers recommended in a shooting video Al has, you should "look where the goalie is not", and then shoot there. I can now do this on the ice as well: look where my opponents are not, and point my body toward those gaps.
  • Score. I think I officially had 3 goals and 6 assists in league games, but I had two or three goals in non-league games as well. I obviously don't score every game, but I start every game knowing that I *can* score. That's huge.

Things I still can't do:

  • Look up before passing more than half the time. I still rely far too often on assumptions about where people are likely to be, rather than looking up to see where they actually ARE. I'm getting better at this, but I'm still not there yet.
  • Move from #3 position to #2 position when doing the Czechoslovakian Drill. I always go back to position #4. [NB: I redid the video in the linked post, making it larger and using Flash Video instead of QuickTime, so more people could see it.] I also often forget to go from position #1 to position #4. Until I get this right, I'll never be able to do this drill at speed, as it should be done.
  • Break out when I'm at Right Wing. Gah! Luckily I usually play left wing, but honestly, I should work at getting better at this. Meghan mentioned that she usually plays D at the summer open hockey sessions just to improve her skills at that position; I'm thinking I should resist the urge to jump into my comfort spot at Left Wing and try my hand at Right as much as possible this summer, for the same reason.
  • Get off a slapshot. I've been practicing these against the boards, and thanks to some advice from Linda Widdop, I can now hit the puck—as opposed to whiffing—about 80% of the time, and I can actually get some air about 10% of the time. What I have a harder time with is figuring out when to wind up while actually skating, and I don't have enough confidence in this area to try one of these in a game. I'd much rather try to score with a more reliable wrister or backhander.
  • Keep my emotions in check. I still get frustrated and angry FAR too easily, making me play worse and my teammates hate me. An old boss once told me in an annual review that I needed to develop a poker face for work, and I think that advice would apply well to other parts of my life as well. "When you're happy," she said, "everybody knows it. And when you're unhappy, EVERYBODY KNOWS IT. It shouldn't be that way." I need to find ways modulate my emotions, so that I'm cheerful (but not manic) most of the time, and just quiet/determined when I can't be cheerful.

Why I am where I am today:

  • Billy. As I've said here before, having a coach was GOLDEN. He kept order on the bench, provided excellent advice during practices, really helped all of us improve, and was amazingly good-natured throughout the season. And he does this for *free*. I was frustrated with many drills at first, but I actually have favorites now—and, more importantly, I understand how those drills relate to game situations. Billy's responsible for that.
  • Meghan and Shelly. Best linemates ever. I aspire to be as fast and confident and driven as Shelly is, and as good-natured and athletic as Meghan. No doubt that they make me look good, but they also make me a better player.
  • Nielle. She reminds me of that Bigelow tea, Constant Comment. :) Lucky for me, she's chock full of useful information, from how use each goalie's tendencies against them to where everyone is—and should be—on the ice. She's also cheerful and supportive and fun to be around, as well as generous with her Yuengling. Thanks for all the great advice and observations, Nielle.
  • Alison and Jill. They welcomed me to the team, wrote encouraging e-mails, and kept me laughing throughout the season. (A weird observation: Jill in e-mail is more like Alison in person, and vice versa. :)

I could go on and on here, about how Steph and Ruthann inspire me to be better and faster, how Donna never ceases to CRACK ME UP, and so on, but I'm mainly focusing on skills in this post and not just how much I enjoyed myself this season. That last is probably worth calling out, though: This is the most fun I've had playing hockey since the last Vancouver Tournament and my season with Gang Green. After two dispiriting seasons in the NHA, it was so refreshing to have the joy back. Thanks to EVERYONE on the Freeze for that.

Posted by Lori at 01:15 PM | Comments (3) | Link to This Entry

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